Saturday, November 14, 2020 9:50 pm
It was the turn of the Nigerian Army to narrate its involvements in quelling the violence which trailed the recent EndSARS protests in Lagos and to especially respond to allegations that troops shot unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on Oct. 20 before the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.
The Army, according to a report by NAN, gave its testimony before the panel in spite of the fact that it claimed that it has not received any formal petition over the Lekki tollgate incident.
Indeed, Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Taiwo who was called to give evidence on behalf of the Army on the events of Oct. 20 spent over two hours during which he played videos to show why and how the military was invited to help quell the violence that trailed the EndSARS protests before the nine-man panel headed by Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd)
Top of his testimony before the panel was the complaint against the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu over comments in the aftermath of the EndSARS protest.
Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, said the Army was unhappy with the governor due to utterances he made in the aftermath of the #EndSARS mayhem.
“The Nigerian Army is unhappy with the governor over two things. The first instance is the denial that he asked us to intervene.
“He had called the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. -Gen.Tukur Buratai and the General Officer Commanding (GOC) after asking the Commander 9th Brigade to intervene, but the Commander could not intervene because procedure was not followed.
“The Commander 9th Brigade asked him to call the COAS and the GOC, Maj.-Gen Uwem, but the governor did not have the GOC’s number and neither did the GOC have the governor’s number.
“The GOC was on assignment in Abuja and saw a number of missed calls from an unknown number, and when he called back, they were able to speak at some point; but he had called the COAS,” he said.
Taiwo noted that it was after the phone call with the COAS, that the 81 Brigade of the Nigerian Army was ordered to enter into phase four of the internal security operations of the Nigerian Army.
He said that phase four was necessary because Lagos had already descended into chaos with blocking of major highways by hoodlums, the looting of businesses, destruction of police stations and the killing of policemen.
“The second instance is when the governor said two people died and he said one person died in Admiralty Road due to blunt force trauma.
“Admiralty Road is about three kilometers from that place (Lekki Tollgate). He said they saw the police brought in a body to the mortuary in Yaba, Lagos. The distance from Lekki to Yaba is far,” he said.
But the General insisted that invitation of the military by the Governor was the right thing to do as the state has descended into a state of anarchy before curfew was declared over the state on that Tuesday.
To prove that Lagos had by then descended into a state of total chaos, Taiwo who testified before the panel using a projector show graphic images of policemen being lynched, police stations being looted and burnt, as well as citizens resorting to cannibalism by eating the burnt flesh of the corpses of lynched police officers.
“Many of us have lived through the 70s to the 2000s, and one thing I have said is that once a peaceful protest goes beyond three days there are hoodlums waiting in the wings to hijack it and cause mayhem and this was no different.
“This state of affairs continued until Oct. 20 and even I was caught up in one of such mobs. The hoodlums I met are not the #EndSARS protesters we have come to see.
“It is the task of the armed forces to intervene when the security task overwhelms the police and other paramilitary services.
“Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu asked the army to intervene which was the correct thing to do,” he said.
Playing a video of the siege of the palace of the Oba of Lagos by hoodlums, Taiwo said that the monarch and his family had to be rescued from the chaos by the Nigerian Army.
“Both the Oba and his family were ferried to safety by the Nigerian Army,” Taiwo said as he played a video recording of the monarch and his family being rescued and taken into a military pickup truck.
“The business district areas were looted and offices were ransacked and destroyed. The hoodlums attempted to invade the Government House, but it was repelled.
“They attempted to break into the Ikoyi Prison and it was repelled. The 81 Division had to support the Correctional Services and the Police.
“They also burnt down the Igbosere High Court. The inmates had burnt part of the Ikoyi Prison, they all did this at the same time because they had gotten information about what was happening on the outside.
“They burnt Shoprite and Spar Lekki was looted. What was shocking and saddening to me was that mothers were taking their children to loot,” he said.
The officer said that he had received a distress phone call from the Managing Director of Spar pleading for the military’s assistance.
“The MD was pleading and saying that let them loot the place, but they should not burn it down.
“When we arrived, these looters had the temerity to come up to soldiers while holding looted goods and say come correct sir!
“A man we arrested had looted household items and when we went to his house to recover the items he had already installed them,” he said.
Taiwo said that while the trying to restore order at Spar Lekki, he had met looters looting Shoprite Lekki and that he had ordered soldiers under his command not to shoot at them, but into the air.
“I wanted to catch them and I did not want any casualty. All the looters our men arrested were taken to the 65 Battalion and we have people of almost every tribe there that day.
“There was a voice note on social media purportedly from Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) saying Igbos should cause mayhem in Lagos.
“This could not be further from the truth because from my assertion, most of the businesses affected were owned by Igbos,” Taiwo said.
He also told the panel that financial institutions were the most targeted the by looters during the #EndSARS unrest, and that the army had evacuated about N2billion in two days for banks during the chaos.
He said the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. -Gen.Tukur Buratai, had ordered that the captured looters should be treated humanely by the military.
“They were fed three times a day and were given what the soldiers were eating. Some of them did not even want to leave,” he said.
He also said the troops used only blank ammunition on robbers and that nobody was killed by the army during the protest.
General Taiwo however said the Army was not after celebrity disc jockey, Catherine Udeh popularly known as ‘DJ Switch’, who had live-streamed on Instagram, footage of the alleged shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate or other #EndSARS protesters.
“DJ Switch claimed the Army was looking for her. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have bigger fish to fry. That is, how to stabilise Lagos.
“There is a lot of misinformation against the Nigerian Army, and when you produce facts debunking the misinformation, all you get is abuse on social media.
“The social media campaign against the Nigerian Army has been wicked and atrocious in its dimension and filled with lies.
“It is being conducted as if officers and men of the Nigerian Army are from the moon or Pluto. The Nigerian Army will never turn against its citizens,” Taiwo said.
There have been unverified social media reports that DJ Switch has been granted asylum in Canada following alleged death threats over her involvement in the #EndSARS protest.